When it comes to packaging, however, circularity focuses largely on recyclability, reusability and compostability of the materials used. Whilst some materials may be difficult to recycle, unless we include downcycling, there is a lot happening right now to improve recyclability. In the next couple of years we will see many innovations in new technology and materials, as well as the introduction of new policies and regulations. We will probably also see more joint efforts, since we must apply system approaches and work together in the value chain to improve circularity and recycling.
Countries lacking infrastructure will need to invest in collection, sorting and recycling capacity.
From the brand and retail side we have seen several initiatives recently that are mostly focused on improved recycling for plastic packaging. There is a general view that plastic is the area to focus on as only 14 per cent of all the plastics globally are collected and only 2 per cent are in closed-loop recycling (same or similar application). Unilever, for example, has committed to reducing its non-recyclable plastic packaging with 50 per cent by 2025 as part of the company’s circular economy strategy. Unilever is also looking into introducing more reusable and refillable packaging, which we have seen in the collaboration with UK retailer Asda where consumers can now buy refills to some of Unilever’s most popular household brands. Loop, an initiative originating from the recycling company TerraCycle, is partnering with several major FMCG brands and retailers globally to introduce reusable and refillable packaging. Consumers can buy their products online or in selected retail stores, and later return their empty containers to the purchase point and have it sent for sorting and cleaning. Afterwards, the container can be refilled and reused by the next consumer.